By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.

Looking back, I have always been drawn to dancers and dancing. “Singing in the Rain” ranks on my top five favorite films, and I was a strange super-fan of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines, thanks to the movie “White Nights.” Throw “Footloose” into the mix of my formative years, and I was doomed to a life of wistfully longing to enter the magical world of dance.

I never took dance lessons, they were a luxury, expensive; they still are, but I find, more and more, that dance is a necessity in my life.

Since moving to Chicago, I have enrolled in a variety of dance classes, and I am sure there are more types of dance in my future.

I know my skill level as a dancer (indefinitely beginner), and am happy to work at it. The truly tremendous thing about taking dance classes as an adult is that there is no hope whatsoever that I could have a career as a dancer. Thus, the pressure is off, and all that remains is to relish the pure pleasure of moving to music.

There are oftentimes ludicrous limitations and extreme expectations imposed upon children with regard to excelling in extracurricular activities, and dance is among these demanding atmospheres. Eager, dedicated young dancers are too often treated with disdain. The proclamations that someone is “not talented enough,” “not a natural dancer,” or that he or she doesn’t have “a dancer’s body” are ridiculous.

Do you have a body? Good, you can dance.

Suggesting dance is reserved for the elite undermines the joy that dance can bring to every life, (and explains why ballet performances are so poorly attended). Dancing at home with cherished family, at parties with unforgettable friends, at bars with inviting strangers, and at weddings with, ideally, every guest between 2 and 92 remains as an unrivaled way to celebrate being alive.

I enjoy learning, so dance lessons offer an extension of that fun, even when I am frustrated by my own meager abilities. I see the teacher do something, and I try to imitate it. I know in advance that my attempts will be a poor reflection, but I don’t care. There is something about dancing that makes me want to try, even though I know I will not master it (perhaps I have finally realized why people like to golf).

My first foray into dance lessons was a delightful class at The Old Town School of Folk Music. I took guitar lessons, too. Do yourself a favor and take lessons there, as it is as close to a hippie commune as can be found in 21st century Chicago. The class was “Hip Hop for Beginners,” and my instructor was a woman who was professionally known simply as “Boogie.” That alone was enough for me to appreciate. Alas, I didn’t excel at Hip Hop, particularly when the skills moved to the floor, meaning falling to the floor and popping back up. Anyone who knows me can confirm that I am not adept at this type of quick vertical movement. Hip shaking was my strongest skill, so I left Hip Hop behind, so to speak.

The next type of dancing I explored was Bollywood dance, essentially musical theater with a Hindi backdrop. The moves in Bollywood are an enchanting blend of gesture and storytelling. My teacher was excellent, knowledgeable, and indefatigable. I’ve never seen an adult with so much energy. She shared the splendor and vitality of this important cultural tradition with boundless enthusiasm. Dance provides an incredibly rich entrance into the remarkably beautiful cultures of the world, a global excursion without the high cost airfare.

The current “dance” class I attend is Zumba, though it is technically an exercise class inspired by and infused with dance. Nevertheless, my instructor, Krista, is trained in tap, jazz, classical, and currently competes as a ballroom dancer, so she brings plenty of fancy footwork to her far less agile students. The music at Zumba is eclectic, but most songs whether popular or obscure contain a driving beat and Latin rhythms. Ass shaking is an absolute necessity in Zumba, which keeps me coming back for more.

The fine art of dance requires discipline, yes, and there are truly gifted dancers in the world, thank heavens, whose skill and talent are a joy to behold. However, that shouldn’t preclude everyone from joining in the fun. Imagine if professional chefs were the only ones permitted in the kitchen, or Olympic swimmers where the only ones allowed in the pool. We all need to be encouraged to fully participate in all the joys of living.

There are dance floors enough in this world to accommodate everyone. So, don’t wait for permission, or even an invitation; get out there and dance.

 

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Comments
  1. Tricia, I love this post! I`m doing a “dance lesson”–actually a piece on square dancing–in English class (wish we could get up and cut a rug …..ooooooo). I would like to show them a copy of your blog post on dancing. OK? Mexican Nan

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